Myth making in India: The story of Teachers’ Day


Amar Khade

amar khadeTeachers' Day is celebrated across many Nations to pay respect and appreciate the works done by Teachers in shaping the next generation citizens. Different Nations celebrate Teachers' Day in accordance with their local socio-politico-cultural setup. International Teachers' Day is celebrated on 5th October every year. Nearly 100 countries with Membership with UNESCO celebrate International Teacher's Day on that day.

Some facts about Teachers' Day celebration in different countries:

In Brunei, Teachers' Day is celebrated as mark of respect for the Late Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien on his birthday i.e. September 23rd. He is considered as the "Architect of Modern Brunei" for his contributions in the field of education. He reformed the education system in Brunei by introducing nominal fees for attending schools, thus making education in Brunei accessible even to the poorest people. He also offered religious scholarships to students for continuing their higher education abroad. The teachers in Brunei receive "Congratulations" on 23rd September as a part of Teachers' Day celebration.

In Taiwan, Teachers' Day is celebrated in honor of great Chinese philosopher Confucius on his birthday i.e. September 28th. He is considered to be the master educator. According to Confucius, the main aim of education is to cultivate Humanity and Benevolence. His thoughts on education are envisaged in the following four points:

1. He advocated the setting up of examples of "Moral Uprightness" through people holding responsible positions, as means of influence and reform.
2. He advocated education for all, without discrimination.
3. He advocated the method of teaching students as per their abilities.
4. His idea of education is also rooted in "Self-Enlightenment".

The day is celebrated like a religious festival in Taiwan and the teachers are also rewarded for their excellent teaching.

In India, Teachers' Day is celebrated on 5th September every year. It is celebrated as Teachers' Day to commemorate the Birth Anniversary of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. He was a Professor of Philosophy. He specialized in Vedanta and postulated that " Vedanta as the essential worldview of Hinduism". After his academic career, he ventured into the Political arena. He was elected as a Member of the Constituent Assembly, first Vice-President and later on became the second President of India.

As a Professor in the field of Comparative Religion and Philosophy, he authored 10 books. He was Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University and Banaras Hindu University. Later, in 1954 he received Bharat Ratna (the highest civilian award) bestowed by Government of India. The contribution of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in the "academic field" is mostly the works penned down by him; and in the "administrative field" it was holding some of the higher posts in the University administration. It was in 1962 when Dr. Radhakrishnan became the President of India that his birthday in September came to be observed as 'Teachers' Day'.

Now let us consider the other personality from Indian History in the field of Education. Savitribai Phule was the wife of Social Revolutionary Mahatma Jotiba Phule. She was educated by Mahatma Jotiba Phule. Later on, the Phule couple started the "First School for Girls" in British India in Bhidewada, Pune. The orthodox Brahmins of that time abused the Phule couple for their endeavors towards educational upliftment of Girls, Ex-untouchables and other oppressed and marginalized sections of the society. Within a span of a decade, the Phules had around 15 schools running across various part of Pune.

Here, the work of the Phule couple is against all the orthodoxy sanctioned by Brahmanism. The age old code of "Manusmriti" which prohibited education to "Women, Shudras and Ati-Shudras" was challenged by them through their work towards educating the marginalized and oppressed sections of the society. Later, Savitri Phule continued to publicly address other ills of society through her public talks in various Satyashodhak Conferences. She was a poet and essayist too. Some of her poems provide much insight into the contemporary socio-economic-cultural-political conditions of Indian society.

The problem of the Brahmanical Narrative in India!

The examples from Brunei and Taiwan altogether tell us a different story. The first talks about the contribution of Late Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien in the field of education through his progressive policies. The second one talks about the contribution of the great Chinese philosopher, Confucius, in the field of education through is Philosophy which has deeply impacted the Taiwanese society. Similarly the active contribution of Savitri Bai Phule and Jotiba Phule, well reflects in their policies and philosophy which is directed towards the upliftment of women folk, Shudras and the Scheduled Castes (Ex-untouchables or Ati-Shudras). A person who challenges the entire hegemony of a certain class and brings out a "Momentum Change" in the course of history is simply acknowledged as a "Social Reformer". Here we are seeing a teacher, who worked against all odds of the society and made a remarkable impact in the lives of future generations. And this was brought down, by not only imparting Education but also by bringing notional changes regarding "Education" in the minds of the people.

The very problem of narratives developed in India is due to the fact that a particular section of Indian society dominates in the history writing process. This particular section has always been serving their class interests by projecting those "Historical Figures" which preserve and propagate their own sets of thoughts/ideology/philosophy. Here also in the case of 5th September, a person who believed in the oppressive principles of Brahmanical ideology which has denied the right to Education to the lowest rungs of Indian Society, whose contribution in the field of education, when compared with the above examples, is almost nil and whose act of plagiarism is very much evident when one remembers Jadunath Sinha. Such a person's birthday is celebrated as Teachers' day in India, the birthday of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.

Hope the new subaltern spaces in our contemporary society develop those kind of narratives which challenge the Brahmanical narratives and will give the rightful and respectful place to the numerous unforgotten revolutionary personalities who  bought fundamental changes in the outlook of the society. After all it is said that "History is written by Victors".


References Taiwan Brunei Taiwan 



Amar Khade is a self-employed engineer by profession and an anti-caste activist by choice.

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